TEN Libraries could be spared from the threat of closure after council officers backed new proposals for the future of the service in Dorset.

However, library campaigners are still angry as they claim a panel of councillors’ calls to keep open all 34 of the county’s libraries are being ignored.

The future of the library service is to be debated at a meeting of Dorset County Council’s community overview committee on Monday, June 20, where members will consider four options put forward by officers.

These include the original proposal, option A, to withdraw funding from 20 of the council’s 34 libraries in a bid to save around £800,000.

A new option, option B, presented in the report is to continue to provide council funding for 24 libraries and make the additional savings required through a reduction in book funds and staff.

The report states that option B is the preferred choice of the officers.

The remaining two options both involve retaining all 34 libraries by finding the savings through other means.

Option C involves the reduction of opening hours across all libraries by 10 per cent, as well as cutting book funds and staff.

Option D proposes similar cuts to book funds and staff as well as a review of the way books are bought.

The report states that the policy development panel – a group of councillors appointed in July last year to consider the various options for the future of the library service – was in favour of option D.

Acting chairman of Ad Lib (the Association of Friends of Dorset Libraries) Tim Lee said: “We are astounded that the unelected officials of the library service should have the effrontery to insist on their own policy of getting rid of libraries against the wishes of the councillors who have spent months weighing up all the options.”

The community overview committee will make a recommendation that will go before the council’s cabinet on July 6 and then full council on July 21.

Mike Chaney, spokesman for Ad Lib and chairman of Friends of Puddletown Library, added: “We think that the panel has done an extremely good job and hope that the other councillors will see sense and follow their advice and not be diverted by the officers of the library service.

“It seems to be sheer bloody mindedness by the people who run the libraries who seem to be so desperate to get rid of some that they will clasp at any straw.”

Debbie Ward, the council’s director of adult and community services, said: “The decreasing amount of resources means that the current level of service cannot be maintained.

“There are a number of significant factors to balance when determining a way forward for the library service, both in terms of the future provision of the library service and making the required level of savings.”